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Franchisee profile: Junqi Bian of Pizza Pizza

In Junqi Bian’s restaurant, New Year’s Eve is the busiest day. The sales are normally 20 to 30 per cent higher compared to other days, so he needs to prepare extra food.
In Junqi Bian’s restaurant, New Year’s Eve is the busiest day. The sales are normally 20 to 30 per cent higher compared to other days, so he needs to prepare extra food.

Since Pizza Pizza was established in 1967, it has become one of the most recognized and successful brands in the Canadian restaurant industry.

The company now has more than 750 locations nationwide. However, its recent growth in Quebec started just over a decade ago in 2007.

Canadian Business Franchise recently spoke with Montreal-area franchisee Junqi Bian, who, along with partner, Rakib Bhuiyan, now owns two Pizza Pizza restaurants, and has plans for a third location in the works.

Canadian Business Franchise (CBF): Did you always envision yourself as an entrepreneur?

Junqi Bian (JB): Not really. I did not think of starting a business after I graduated from university. As I had an educational background in finance, I was looking for a job at a bank, investment group, or insurance company in the first year after my graduation.

CBF: Why did you choose franchising?

JB: I think all the franchise businesses had already built up their reputations in the market, and people know them well. Second, I do not have much experience running a business, so starting with a franchise is a better option for me. And finally, for me, running a franchise is a lower risk than starting a business by myself.

CBF: How did you discover a franchising opportunity at Pizza Pizza?

JB: I knew about Pizza Pizza because I had a friend who was already involved in this business, and I did work with him for about six months. One of the reasons why I decided to join the company as a franchisee is because I like the taste of Pizza Pizza. Also, pizza is a daily food option, so the business will always be there in the market.

Pizza Pizza was a quoted company in the stock market, and it was one of the most successful companies in this field across the whole country. They have a systematic training program for new franchisees and help them to build up their business together while offering a mutual food supply chain.

Also, the opportunity had an acceptable initial investment in the beginning (compared to other good franchises in the food industry) and was a low risk.

CBF: When did you buy your franchise?

JB: I bought my store in 2013. The process began with talking to the sales director, gathering general information, and filling out a form to show my interest in becoming a franchisee. I then chose the area I was interested in, and Pizza Pizza helped to find a location in the area, negotiating with and making the lease with the landlord.

I then provided the first deposit amount of the franchise fee and provided all the information Pizza Pizza required for the bank loan application. After contacting a lawyer to check the franchise agreement, I signed the contract, and paid the remainder of the deposit. Their construction team helped build up the store, and I went for the training and got my store shortly thereafter.

CBF: What was involved in opening your franchise?

JB: When opening a new store, they will send an experienced manager to help run the business with the new franchisee in the first two to four weeks.

The next step is to secure advertising in TV, radio, newspaper, and flyers in local market. The regional operations manager will help new stores to build up the business by going to local schools and companies to get the orders.

 CBF: Describe your opening day.

JB: On my opening day, both the regional operations manager and training manager came to my store to help, which made me feel more relaxed. I stayed on the kitchen line, while they helped with customer service. There was a dinner rush on the first day, and we used the opportunity to let every customer know about our great products and prices.

 CBF: Describe a typical day of running your franchise business.

JB: In my restaurant, December 31 is the busiest day of each year. The sales are normally 20 to 30 per cent higher compared to other days, so I need to prepare extra food and schedule additional staff. On that day, I have two rush periods: dinner rush from 5 to 9 p.m., and New Year’s Day rush (from midnight to 2 a.m.). I had a hard time managing everything on that day in the beginning, but now I can easily handle the pressure.

CBF: Do you feel your educational background helps in your day-to-day tasks and overall business decisions?

JB: Yes, for me, it helped. Through the daily operations, I quickly learned how to manage a store, which includes employee management, problem solving, customer service, product control, and decision-making. But because Pizza Pizza has a complete routine for every step of store management, it is not quite necessary to have an educational background in a related field.

CBF: What have been the highlights and challenges of running your franchise?

JB: Some of the challenges include following all the rules of the franchisor, thinking of how to turn my customers into friends, being patient to allow the business to grow, keeping the store clean, product quality control, working under pressure, managing business costs, and employee supervision.

CBF: How has COVID impacted your franchise?

JB: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted my business in a small, very limited way. In the beginning of the lockdown, my store saw a slight drop in sales. It was mainly because dine-in service was closed. But as an essential business, our delivery orders soon began to boom. As customers could place their order through Uber Eats, Skip The Dishes, and DoorDash, my business has actually grown from last May.

CBF: How do you make your franchise stand out among others in the market?

JB: I believe Pizza Pizza offers the best customer service experience and the best offering of multiple products in the industry. Strict management makes the store have a long life in the market. We also have a high product, lower selling price, and fast service.

CBF: How has the business evolved since you started?

JB: I started my business in 2013. At that time, Pizza Pizza was the new company in my area and not too many people knew about it, so it took about two to three years to establish strong sales. During this period, I worked very hard and thought about how to improve the food quality and customer service every day. Pizza Pizza head office team really helped me during that time. In recent years, as Pizza Pizza’s business has expanded, many new stores are opening yearly, and more advertising is published. Today, it is well-known in the Montreal market. Combining all the factors above, my store is running very well.

CBF: What are your future plans?

JB: My partner and I already have two Pizza Pizza stores, and the third store will be coming soon. So, we will continue looking for good opportunities with this franchise. Hopefully, we can get two more stores in the next two to three years.

 

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